My kids attend the school and like many parents I feel very lucky. The school’s curriculum is transparent, fairly rigorous, project/inquiry based, relevant and there is a high expectation from each and every student. The teachers are generally resolute that all students can learn at high levels. The school has adequate resources to help kids be successful- great classrooms! The parent support is very strong; they form a community of their own and spend numerous hours totally engaged with school events. It’s amazing! They commit the extra effort to create a sense of classroom/ school community and cultivate a school spirit.
Yes diversity is an important element of any school. While Polaris’s student body is not reflective of the actual neighborhood -- it is a diverse body of students from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Teachers structure their teaching to acknowledge different perspectives and diverse views of Americans- to include the sensitive topic of race. The entrance criteria keeps learning at a high level, where America should be and unfortunately, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds (which is the neighborhood)- are less likely to have access to the more rigorous learning opportunities Polaris has to offer.
Polaris is one of those schools that is so great, you get spoiled and forget how good it really is until you go tour other schools or hear about them from other parents. Class sizes are 25 or 26 kids. Each teacher also get several hours of para support in the classroom. The school has full-time music, gym, art, and librarian teachers thanks to parent fundraising.
Parents have to work to get their kids into the school which means all the kids have parents that actually care about their kids' education. The best thing about this school is that all the kids are smart (gifted) so there is no stigma about being the smart kid or a nerd. No one gets teased for being smart. Second, because of this, no one here sweats the testing, which means teachers have time to do more than just get everyone to the base level. They have high test scoring anyway. So, instruction is focused on the kids and learning. Art and creativity are incorporated into lessons. They have electives which are fun, enrichment-type classes on Friday afternoons during the school day. There is no need for uniforms or strict rules. The library is huge and full of current books. It's the way elementary school should be. The only real drawback is no air conditioning in the building.
There is a new principal for 2015. She seems engaged and motivated. The previous principal was an administrator to the core, but not bad in anyway. Teacher turnover is maybe 1 per year which is average for any DPS school. (There was no turnover for 2014 to 2015.)
Regarding some people who don't understand the school: First, this is a magnet school, not a neighborhood school. Living nearby does not get you in. Your child must take a test and score as HGT, that is HIGHLY gifted and talented. Testing as GT, or being otherwise "identified", doesn't get you in either. Having a sibling gets you in 1st, but ONLY if the incoming student also tests as HGT. Since this is a great school kids stay here from year to year. They don't add kids unless someone leaves except for when there is a new class at Kindergarten, 1st, and 4th Grade, so just 3 or 4 new kids get in a 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. Kindergarten has a huge wait list every year (easier test). So, your best chance to get in is 1st or 4th grade.
The new Principal has already shown that she is experienced in HGT education and eager to hear from parents about how to best educate Polaris kids. We hope she will restart efforts to bring in more diversity. But the teachers are amazing and the kids are happily and eagerly thriving!
We have been more than happy at Polaris. Our son has gone from 'mwah' about school to really excited. He has built great friendships, there is virtually no bullying and the kids seem to respect each other. Our daughter is growing into a girl who is OK with being smart. No need to dumb down to fit in. I'm so happy she learns this before the awkward teenage years and is comfortable with who she is. The parent below who refuses to send her kids here claims that siblings get a free pass in, even when they don't test HGT. NOT true. There aren't even enough spots for some siblings who did test HGT in KG. It is a bit white and I wish it was more diverse. Regarding it not being a neighborhood school: it is not supposed to be a neighborhood school, it is a charter school for highly gifted children (top 3%).
I live 2 blocks from the school, two of kids have tested HGT - AF ter further research - I REFUSE - to send my kids there for the following reasons: 1) does not represent the neighborhood at all - considering it is ONLY 3% low income and 81% white. REALLY? 2) Siblings (that aren't tested GT or HGT) are for the most part guaranteed in - thereby diluting the level of the school 3) most (upward of 50%) of the families are from Park Hill and Stapleton and Highlands Ranch - nothing wrong with that - but again - furthering my point of not being a neighborhood school. I am unhappy with this school and I hope this changes - to have a better representation of the demographics of Denver and the neighborhood.
I moved my two children to this school this year and it has exceeded our expectations. Both my children are engaged, challenged, and feel like they are part of a greater community. I would highly recommend this school. I feel very lucky my children can get this quality of education within the DPS school system.
Polaris at Ebert is a a fantastic school celebrating creativity with core curriculum and arts with science. I love that the school's community is comprised of many diverse and talented parents as well.
Our eldest daughter graduated last fall and we are thrilled with how Polaris has prepared her for Middle School. She is a product of both the founding principal and the current principal, as well as past and current teacher. We credit her own efforts and the fabulously passionate teachers and current Principal for their hard work and educational values. Polaris is not always an easy place to learn because it is intense, yet we are so glad that our children have had the opportunity to learn there. Kudos to Polaris for not teaching for tests and for teaching for the better development of the children. We are so glad our younger daughter has two more years at Polaris!